All competitive tennis players can relate to this one. You are out there alone on the concrete tennis court (which is typically the surface you will play on in Southeast Asia), the sun is shining down on you to an unbearable degree, every other thing other than your match is grabbing at your attention, and the more you grapple with this fragmented focus, the more desperate you become to finish off the point in play to end your misery. However, your pain lengthens against your will as your opponent plays every shot back by a safe margin (neither too short for you to do an easy finish, nor too long to have a risk of one of them going out sometime soon). As the pain endures, you are caught in a dilemma, should I increase my aggression and risk hitting out or should I continue the more patience-testing safe path? Now, imagine two scenarios. The first being that you chose the former, and hit a ball wide after all the effort and energy you put into working the point until that stage. The second being that while adopting the safe part and expecting nothing point-changing to happen anytime soon, your opponent unleashes an unexpected forehand drive which catches you off-guard, causing you to return a weak ball which then gets punished - you just lost a hard-fought out point. Without knowing it, you unleashed a scream - complicated in the diverse range of emotions it comprises. You feel desperate, angry, sad, perplexed, annoyed, and perhaps laughter. Such are the pains of a competitive tennis player.
Why such pressure?
In our opinion, tennis is the most mentally tough sport for these reasons:
- You feel more unnecessarily alone competing than any other sport
For some odd reason, conventional competitive tennis rules forbids any form of player-spectator or player-coach interaction, which is not the case for other sports. This creates a feeling of immense loneliness for the players on the court - the whole multitude of frustrations and kinds of mental pain will have to be dealt with by the player himself, in his own mind. Such is the reason for the frequent rants and racket smashes in tennis, much more so than any other racket sport. Frustration needs to get out somewhere lest an implosion of a player occurs.
- The points system of tennis
The points system of tennis is also uniquely pressurizing. Unlike the typical accumulative scoring system for a racket sport, such as badminton or table tennis, tennis scores are structured in such a way that it is very easy for a player to lose all from an apparent position of strength, and vice versa. For instance, it is very easy to lose a game despite being up 40-0. The same also applies to game points, wherein being up 5-0 does not mean anything at all. As such, one can imagine the psychological strain put upon competitive tennis players as they seek to ensure that the match gets closed out. There is no opportunity for some breathing space - a single slip can sent in a losing momentum.
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